Staff Spotlight: Gene O. Desideraggio

If you've been into Petra Cliffs in the past few years, chances are you've interacted with Gene O at the front desk, in summer camp, or around the gym. GeneO is always smiling, always hungry to learn more about climbing and the industry, and seeks out challenges. Thanks to Gene O for his hard work and dedication as a vital part of our team!

Where are you from, and how long have you worked at Petra Cliffs?
I am from Granby, Connecticut. It's a small farm town turned suburbia in the western hills of the state. This will be my fourth summer working at Petra. I was introduced to climbing at this small local crag across the street from my house. It was a short walk into the woods with a 50-foot granite cliff to set up a top rope on. I had a friend who had all the gear, extra harnesses and extra shoes, who set up a top rope for us one day and it became one of my favorite ways to recreate outside. I always loved walking up to the top of that cliff with my family and dogs and then I was like oh wow, now I can hangout on the face of the cliff and also get strong and get exercise.

What is your role at Petra Cliffs?
What does the job entail, and what do you enjoy about it? My official role is front desk staff but that entails many things. I talk to customers, make sure their memberships are all good, sell memberships and day passes, and facilitate birthday parties and groups. I welcome people to the gym, which is the best part of the job because I'm welcoming people to climbing for the first time and it's cool to share something I'm so stoked about and watch people go from being afraid to sit back on the auto-belay to climbing for the entire day. I close many nights and I clean for like two hours so I guess part of my role is custodian. I consider it work when it is busy and when a lot of people are coming through but when I'm coming in for a 4-10 closing shift I don't really consider it going to work. Sure I have to clean, sure I have to do orientations but I'm pretty much hanging out in my favorite place to hangout!

What is a fun fact about you that many of our members don't know?
Before climbing I never really had any sports that I loved but when I was younger I kind of did gymnastics; it was only the mat portion. I was never that good but I was pretty proud I, got my front handspring down and every 3 or 4 years I try it. I actually tried the other day and I can still do it.

What do you value most about being part of the Petra Cliffs community, especially during this current state of the Coronavirus?
I had never really been a member of a climbing gym and when I was at UVM I used the free stuff at campus. It wasn't great but then I saw this job and wanted to learn more about gym climbing. It's ended up being a lot more than that because I've learned a ton about climbing in general. The best thing about the Petra Cliffs community is making friends and having the resources to go climbing outside. I've learned about climbing gear, technique, anchors and have made so many climbing partners and friends here. Climbing here is a great way to make a community that you can take outside the walls of the gym.

When I first started here, sometimes people would walk straight into the gym not even to buy a day pass; they would just come in to flip through the guidebook and ask the staff some questions. I didn't know that much and I would feel silly in these situations. Over time I have learned and now when people come in saying, "I've tried to find all the boulders on Bolton Notch Road and I couldn't find them," I'm like yeah I got the beta for you! While the gym is closed, if members want to hit me up on Instagram @geneoinstagrams go for it!

Do you have a preferred climbing discipline (boulder/sport/trad)?
I think I perform best less than 10 feet off the ground and bouldering fits what I'm looking for; just a day out climbing romping around in the woods, finding a nice tree to sit under during rests and identifying plants in between climbs. That is more interesting to me on more levels than sport climbing and being on one 60-foot-tall 5-foot-wide piece of rock all day. I really love adventuring and getting up high too, so I'm trying to get more into the multi-pitch side of things and adventure climbing. That's another discipline that speaks to me despite my inability to climb as hard at high heights.

What's one thing you'd like to see the gym start offering members as we upgrade to Petra 2.0?
Petra Cliffs has such a big community with many members and also many people who don't have a membership but come to us for guiding. Our gym is small and because of that, we don't have a yoga studio or as much of a workout gym as some people would want. I want Petra Cliffs 2.0 to serve the members in every way they need. Right now we're busting at the seams and we need more, more of everything, more plastic rocks, more space. Other gyms do it and we will too when we have the space.

Photos on Quiggly, 5.7 at the Bolton Dome by Michael Pronzato